The more digital technology changes, the more it disrupts the way churches conduct discipleship. The old ways of transferring knowledge from one speaker to many hearers has long since faded. Advances in our knowledge of how to effectively communicate have changed the way we do discipleship for sure, but so have advances in technology. Constant contact, seemingly infinite availability of resources, and push reminders are all changing the way churches disciple (to name just a few).


I work as a Pastor of Small Groups. The people I lead are in constant contact with me. Often times my phone pings with my message notification a couple of times before I get to work in the morning, and the messages are read to me over my car stereo. We can talk anytime, and from anywhere. While there are certainly pitfalls to this idea of infinite availability, certain benefits do come with with increased availability. For example, my leaders can ask me questions about dealing with people issues or crises in real time. They don’t have to wait until they get home, or I get home (as we did back in the 90s). Because of Facebook, I can approach my small group leaders with a conversation primed and ready to go when I see them. If you follow your Small Group leaders on Facebook you can keep up with the events that are going on in their life, and see what they thought was important enough to be sent to the world. Then when you see them in real life you can ask them follow up questions about those things you saw on Facebook. They are broadcasting for everyone to see, so why not use that as a jumping off point for building relationships with your small group leaders?


I am able to give them help for the groups within seconds of them asking for it. This one sort of goes along with the previous disruption, but it is also a bit different. For example, I had a group leader call me in a panic about not having enough books to pass out because a new couple had said they wanted to come. I was able to tell the leader how to download the material on their iPhone so that they could give the physical book to the newcomer at small group. In the years to come, people will increasingly expect his sort of instantaneous fix for a lack of resources. We need to create small group material with that in mind, and also choose pre-made resources that fit the criterion of availability.


Push notifications are pretty standard nowadays. Your phone likely makes a special sound whenever some notification is pushed to your phone. My phone makes the jump sound from the old Mario Brothers game whenever an email from work arrives. You are likely trained to check your phone anytime a variety of sounds or vibrations emanate from it. We can utilize these notifications for discipleship by timing the delivery of text messages for important reminders. You can use a service to schedule a reminder for your next one on one breakfast to hit your disciple’s phones at 9pm, just after they’ve unwound from putting the kids to bed – and while they still have time to adjust plans if they forgot about the breakfast.


As you can see, I think that digital technology has disrupted discipleship in the church. I also think that if you and I will make a concerted effort to utilize digital technology in God honoring ways that these advances will enhance the way your church does discipleship.

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